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Summer League in Review: Chet Holmgren

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With the Thunder playing in both Utah and Vegas during Summer League, their players have some of the largest exhibition sample sizes to go off of this year. Oklahoma city fans were lucky to watch Chet Holmgren and Josh Giddey play a lot of games in addition to their lower draft picks and sophomore players. Normally, good second-year players like Giddey do not play, so it was nice to see him compete and escape with no injuries.

To start off, I do think Summer League is something that matters somewhat. Most of the numbers, primarily the percentages from the field, have little to no correlation to players’ rookie seasons. It’s more about the process and how these players are doing what they are doing on the floor.

This helpful guide by Owen Phillips showcases which Summer League numbers are sticky when projecting a player in their first season:

As Phillips shows, all of these categories are less affected by statistical noise when compared to their counterparts. The least correlated stats from Summer League are:

It’s important to keep in mind that percentages are the most volatile and least predictive statistic there is when it comes to Summer League-to-pro projection. There are multiple factors that play into this, such as small sample size, bad luck, terrible offensive spacing, generally sloppy basketball, and more. Remember when people were worried about Trae Young in Utah?

With these caveats out of the way, we’ll be digging into how OKC’s young prospects performed in Utah and Vegas.

Chet Holmgren

Let’s start off with the player with possibly the most eyes on him in all of Vegas, Chet Holmgren.

I thought Chet was fantastic in both settings this summer. He finished both leagues averaging 14 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.8 blocks. Chet attempted 3.8 threes and 3.4 free throws in 26 minutes of game action, a good sign of him continuing to have confidence from beyond the arc (he also shot 42.1 percent on threes, for what it’s worth). I thought his passing was fantastic in all of the games I watched, as he was able to find open cutters under the basket and also flashed the ability to drive and kick out to open threes. He did not do much drive and kick at Gonzaga, so the signs of that were super encouraging. He showcased a one-legged Dirk fadeaway and an incredible crossover into midrange pullup that looked incredibly fluid for a player of his size. I love seeing players try to expand their games during SL and am always encouraged by these sort of reps.

His defense was as advertised and delivered on what I expected. He was a dominant interior presence against everyone not named Kenny Lofton, and even then he defended Lofton well on most of their possessions matched up together. The Summer League refs were not the greatest, as you might expect, and a few goaltending calls were wrongfully whistled against Chet. His timing and instincts on this end are truly phenomenal; pairing that with his length produces a pretty dominant shot-blocker on the interior. He had a few mistakes on the perimeter when switched out onto quicker players. As I said pre-draft, he is not Evan Mobley in that aspect, so I wouldn’t expect him to be able to hang out there consistently.

A couple of nitpicking issues that I have with Holmgren as I have such high regards for him as a player: his screening was pretty terrible and his handle was a bit loose. His screens so far have provided the ball handler with almost no advantages and he does not make good contact with the defender when setting them. Regarding his handle, I thought on reps where he had the ball and behind-the-back and other moves, it was shaky more often than not. This isn’t a huge deal immediately, because he’s 7’1 tall and has many other skills, but tightening the handle will be a big step if he’s ever going to be a star offensively.

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